It probably won’t suprise anyone to learn that US businesses are looking into the possibility of sending employees overseas for medical treatments that tend to be costly at home. Afterall, US businesses have been outsourcing production and customer service overseas for years. So far, only a handful of employees have been sent overseas by their employers for medical treatment, but the number is sure to grow as more people learn about the options available, and the savings involved. As with any outsourcing issue, people are divided in their opinions of shipping healthcare overseas.
I think that the American healthcare system cannot continue much longer on its current trend of rapidly rising costs, lowered health insurance benefits, and increasing numbers of uninsureds. Something’s got to give. When CEOs are posting record bonuses and salaries, and health insurance companies are reveling in huge mergers, the American public is bound to become more and more disenchanted with the current system. Because of this, I can see people giving more consideration to the idea of going overseas for medical treatment that can be scheduled in advance. Thousands of Americans have already traveled to places like Thailand and Singapore for elective plastic surgery that isn’t covered by health insurance. But with the number of uninsureds rising every year, more people are in a situation to consider traveling abroad for necessary medical treatment aswell.
If employers get in on the overseas healthcare action, it could result in a much-needed decrease in health insurance premiums for all workers. But there are also some potential pitfalls. If companies find that sending workers overseas for treatment does significantly reduce costs, they may consider making overseas treatment mandatory in order for an employee to receive coverage (businesses are generally reluctant to choose the more expensive option in any situation). Many employees would not feel comfortable with the idea of having to travel thousands of miles to receive healthcare in an unfamiliar environment, without their friends, family, and regular doctors.
I do think that there are some aspects of the American healthcare system that are ridiculous. Multimillion dollar medical malpractice awards come to mind. As do millionaire hospital and insurance company CEOs. Even the exceedingly high cost of medical school puts a burden on our healthcare system, since it contributes to the high salaries many doctors demand. But with the high cost of healthcare here, and especially with the threat of lawsuits always in the background, we do have a measure of reassurance that our treatment will be handled properly. Overseas, this may not be the case. If the US were to start shipping patients to India and Thailand in large numbers, their health care system may become overburdened and the quality of care may decline.
I also have to question the ethics of outsourcing in general. Is it right to pay far less for medical care in another country than it would cost here? Or are the prices here so overinflated that they are no longer a good indicator for the actual value of a service?